Welcome to Advent! Advent marks the start of a new church year where our gospel readings change and this year it means the beginning of the year of the Gospel of Mark, which tends to be the most concise telling of the story of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.
Every year I hear a lament from folks when Advent comes around. I’ve heard from many of you that in prior eras, you sang Christmas songs all throughout Advent. Then, at some point, the church tightened up and Christmas songs were no longer allowed during Advent, and for many of you, this is altogether disappointing and annoying. So, I wanted to share some thoughts.
First of all, we’re not a church of “law” but “gospel” and so I’m not going to come down with the hammer of Thor and forbid the singing of Christmas songs before Christmas Eve worship. We’ve got our 2nd Annual Beer and Carols event on December 4th where we’ll fill the Red Fox Steakhouse and Piano Bar with an uproar of carol singing with our friends at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. Also, this year we have the strange occurrence where Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday and so we’ll have our Advent 4 worship service on the morning of December 24th and then return that evening at 6 pm for our Christmas Eve worship. We’ve decided that our Advent 4 worship service will be a service of lessons and carols and there will be a part of the service where folks can shout out their favorite Christmas Carols in the hymnal and we’ll sing them! So, we’re not going to be legalistic about this.
At the same time, Advent is a distinct time in the life of the church. It’s a time that gives airtime to the experience of waiting and the often uncertain, frustrating difficulty that comes with living in an in-between time. The experience of waiting for Christ to be born on Christmas gives voice to so many of our lived experiences as Christians - it makes room in the life of the church for those who are waiting to die, for those who are waiting for change or fulfillment or a cure of morning in the midst of a season of night.
Truth is, there are a lot of people that resonate with this experience. Life is often more like hanging out in the darkness and in the ambiguity of waiting than it is like Christmas morning, where the one for whom we’ve been waiting is right there in our hands and we can grasp it with certainty.
People need a church that will give voice to the experience of their uncertainty and their experiences of being in the in-between times of waiting and so we want to make sure to make space for this distinct season in the life of the church and not just let it bleed altogether into the hype of Christmas.
I hope that our community of faith is a place where you can bring all for which you hope and wait this year. Bring your longings and your desperate prayers. Bring all for which you wait. Advent is the season in the life of the church where we stand with one foot in the world as it is and the other foot in the world as it could/should be, which is not always an easy place to stand. So, we stand together, clutching God’s promises while we wait for all that is to come.
Blessed Advent, dear people.